This time last Sunday night, I was wrapping up a PowerPoint for U of Pittsburgh female student-athletes. I had been invited to speak to them about sexual violence and decision-making, and I had SO MUCH to tell them. Whittling my copious notes to just a few bulleted slides challenged me and my penchant for detail. I had worked a 12-hour volunteer shift that day and I felt fried. But then, it came to me just as my frustration seemed to be winning out: To flip the concept of decision-making on its head and focus my energies on rapists.
I decided to educate the young ladies at Pitt about rapists by explaining rapists’ decisions: The how and why of them. The horrors of them. But not, NOT women’s decisions. Because it is never a woman’s decision to be raped. Suddenly, it became crystal clear I pound that message. Those women deserved my best.
I used all that I have learned and digested, pondered and realized in my six years of exploring this crime and poured it into my notes and presentation.
The next night, as I spoke, I felt all the usual things that I’d be worried if I didn’t feel: urgency, anger, frustration, but also, hope. Something about the feel in the room and the looks on their faces told me I had their attention or their respect; I was willing to take either. Indifference would have crushed me, so passionate did I feel while talking to them, staring at their pretty, fresh faces.
Staring out into a sea of female athletes – no better place to be (Courtesy of U. of Pittsburgh Life Skills).
After concluding, I was approached by some of them – with questions or thanks (many have emailed me too). Some were so excited to have information they could use in future discussions or debates with their friends. And some were curious about how to help in the fight against sexual violence. All of them seemed comfortable talking to me and ok with all I had thrown at them the previous 70 minutes. I felt relieved. No matter my big dreams and lengthy Powerpoints, I know to be grateful for however small a change I can implement in how people think about sexual assault. Pittsburgh, you were tremendous. Thank you.